Maria Mosquera chats with her 3-year-old daughter while waiting to enter the public restroom adjacent to the Westlake/MacArthur Park station. It’s not the first time she has used it. “My daughter goes to school around here and when I stayed in the area to wait for her, I know I have access to this bathroom,” says the 40-year-old mother who uses Metro buses to get around Los Angeles.
“I think it is useful for passengers because sometimes we have emergencies along the way,” says Maria. “I have seen other toilets, like those regular porta-potties, and they are terrible. This restroom is well cleaned and that’s why I feel safe going in with my daughter.”
The restroom at Westlake/MacArthur Park station on the B/D Lines is part of Smart Public Restrooms — a six-month pilot program that Metro launched in October 2023 in collaboration with Throne, a company that aims to reduce the lack of public bathrooms.
Thanks to the initiative, we also installed three additional Throne toilets in different corners of our service area:
- Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station on the A/C Lines
- Norwalk station on the C Line
- Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station (right now, this Throne is only open for bus operators taking breaks)
Each Throne is a portable, ADA-compliant bathroom open seven days per week in different schedules. Each unit has water, soap, toilet paper, paper towels and even a station to change your baby’s diaper. The unit also has a ventilation system and is sustainable because it is powered by solar energy. You don’t have to touch anything to use it — sensors installed in the bathroom allow you to flush the toilet or open the door with just a wave of your hand. Once you enter a Throne, you have a 10-minute time limit to do your business. The toilets are cleaned several times a day.
This week the program celebrates its first 100 days of service. At the project’s outset, many people worried that public restrooms wouldn’t last long in good condition. However, the numbers prove otherwise. As of January 12, there have been more than 17,278 uses in the four locations, and our Throne team has received no reported incidents. After visitors use the restrooms, they have the opportunity to rate them on their phones, so the Throne team can evaluate the pilot and make adjustments as it continues. So far, users have been giving the toilets very high ratings.
The Westlake/MacArthur Park station bathroom, which is open daily from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, has been used 5,625 times. Here are some user comments:
- Danny Alvarez, a young man who frequently travels by Metro: “This [restroom] is the best. Now, when I take the B (Red) Line, I no longer have to wait to get to Union Station to use the restroom… Plus it’s clean.”
- Kevin Palmer, who takes public transportation daily and works in the area, says: “I saw it was a free bathroom and that caught my attention. I gave it a try and it was easy, clean, and I felt safe. In other regular public bathrooms, people stay inside forever or fall asleep. You can’t do that here [with Throne]. Also, it is convenient because there are not many public bathrooms in the area. For me, as I am on transit for a long time during the day, it is a relief.”
- Eric Culebro uses the station once a week to visit friends in the area: “My friends told me the bathroom worked only with a QR code. You don’t have to download any application on your cell phone, you just open your phone’s camera, open the link and that’s it. It is easy and practical. They also give you 10 minutes to use the service… I think is more than enough.”
In addition to passengers, vendors around the station have had positive things to say about the pilot:
- Maria Laureano says: “I find it easy to use QR code with my phone. In addition, it is important to have bathrooms nearby to prevent people from using the streets as bathrooms.”
- Fatima Mendoza says: “The initiative is good because you don’t have to pay. When there are no free toilets, people have to look for one in a restaurant and they don’t let you use the bathroom if you don’t buy something. This one is more convenient.”
Of course, introducing public restrooms still presents challenges, since restrooms can be used inappropriately when not constantly monitored.
However, a program that “manages to deflect inappropriate behavior through technology makes it a promising pilot program,” says Stephen Tu, Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer of Station Experience. “Users have been enthusiastic about this initiative and not only support it, but also take care of this service.”
He adds that the Smart Public Restrooms pilot reflects Metro’s commitment to improve public safety and cleanliness in the stations. “We see mothers with children now using these public bathrooms, something that didn’t happen before,” Tu says.
The results of the Smart Public Restrooms pilot will be presented to the Metro Board in the spring.
Have you already used this service? Leave us a comment, we want to know what you think of this pilot program!